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On the rebound

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Positive price momentum returned to Oahu’s housing market in May after a dip in April, as the median price for previously owned single-family homes rose 12 percent last month.

The price gain to $606,000 from $542,000 in May 2009 was the largest this year next to an 11 percent rise in January, according to data released yesterday by the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

Median prices also rose in February and March, by 4 percent, but declined 6 percent in April.

For the first five months of this year, the median single-family home sale price was up 3 percent to $585,000 compared with the same period last year, though it remains 7 percent below the comparable figure for 2008.

Brian Benton, president of the trade association and an agent with Prudential Locations, said in a statement the price rebound was "encouraging." He also said it appears more sellers are pricing property attractively to entice buyers.

The number of home sales in May was up 3 percent to 284 from 216 in the same month last year.

The gain in sales came despite the inventory of homes on the market being down 26 percent last month to 1,520 from 2,061 a year earlier.

Relatively low inventory is one factor helping support prices.

May’s median price rise was well disbursed around parts of the island, including areas that have had significant price weakness since the downturn unfolded two years ago.

For instance, in Oahu’s largest single-family home submarket — the Ewa Plain, where relatively high levels of foreclosures have depressed prices — the median was up 4 percent to $433,000 on 34 sales last month from a median $415,000 on the same number of sales a year earlier.

Guy Tamashiro, principal broker of West Oahu Realty, said more sellers are trying to underprice their homes with an aim that multiple interested buyers will bid up the price.

"There are quite a bit of buyers," he said. "It’s picking up on the pricing a little bit."

The Ewa Plain was one of 14 submarkets with a median price gain out of 21 regions. Five areas were down and two had no reported sales.

In Oahu’s condominium market, sales were up 36 percent to 355 in May from 262 a year earlier.

Condo inventory stood at 1,901, down 30 percent from 2,711 in the same period.

The median condo sale price was up 4 percent to $312,500 from $300,000.

For the first five months of the year, Oahu’s median condo sale price was up 1.5 percent to $305,000 from $300,500 in the same period last year.

All home sales data from May still include transactions spurred by a federal stimulus tax credit created to help the housing market recover.

The rebate worth up to $8,000 for first-time buyers or up to $6,500 for repeat buyers was available on home purchase contracts signed before May 1, provided sales close by June 30.

The Honolulu Board of Realtors sale data represent sales completed in May, which reflect sales contracts typically signed between February and April.

Some observers expect sales in the next couple of months could decline with the absence of the tax credit.

That’s because some economists say stimulus programs have the effect of advancing sales that would have occurred later had there been no stimulus.

Still, the number of home purchases that were pending in May was up 25 percent for single-family homes compared with sales pending in May 2009. Pending condo purchases were up 15 percent.


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